Selling superstyle? First learn to speak Chav

Party @ LN-CC Shacklewell Lane Lon E8 2010

HACKNEYS most exclusive retail outlets may be making fewer sales to downturn-hit Britons but the Chavs are coming to the rescue.

Not the trackie-wearing, pitbull-tugging tattooed ones and not chavs in the sense of the Romany word, no; in an upscale-store context, Chav means “Chinese accessories victim”.

A booming economy, tightly controlled by a so-called communist yet capitalism-encouraging leadership, has created almost a billion dollar-millionaires and enabled many Chinese to travel. And they travel to shop: last year 110,000 came to Britain.

The People’s Republic is emphasising the need to speak English but canny Hackney prestige stores have learnt to talk more directly to these affluent continent-hopping shoppers.

LN-CC (pictured), one of the most exclusive stores in London (you have to make an appointment, and it can be at any time of day), has staff who speak the two main Chinese dialects, as well as Japanese, Korean and Indonesian. The Shacklewell Lane shop can also cope with Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Flemish.

Charlotte Hall, LN-CC’s public-relations and marketing director, told Loving Dalston: “We are an international company so it’s important for us to have an international team. Our aim is to enable international customers to browse and shop easily.

“We get a lot of visitors to the UK coming to the store in Dalston and sometimes it’s much easier for them to talk to someone who speaks their language.

“Having native speakers on staff enables us to offer a high level of customer service.”

Over in Morning Lane, young Chinese people have become a common sight. They are on a pilgrimage to Burberry’s factory shop in Chatham Place E9 6LP, which sells its designer clothes at big reductions. It attracts about a million visitors a year.

Thirty per cent of Burberry sales in Britain are to Chinese customers — tourists and tertiary-level students — and at the Hackney outlet two Chinese speakers are on hand. Other languages are also spoken.

Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s chief, asked what brings the Chinese here, said: “Saying ‘I bought this in London’ adds cachet.”

Susie Lau, a Londoner of Chinese origin who blogs as Style Bubble, believes the main attraction is price. She told Loving Dalston: “The Chinese generally are bargain hunters and will want the best price. Buying Burberry in Hong Kong and Beijing particularly would be expensive because there are import duties added on [by China] to the retail prices.

“There’s nothing to analyse about this that’s ‘deep’: the Chinese just want a trench for half the price.”

* Charlotte Hall interview by Esra Turk

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